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The walkable suburb: a primer

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Apr. 1st, 2014 | 11:05 pm

It's only one page.

Hadn't had a chance to talk about our trip to Miami, but it happened! And I can put up a little recap, though it wasn't super eventful. But with the bit of free time I have tonight, here is a geeky planning-focused entry that was inspired by the trip:

We stayed with Brian's parents in the tiny suburb of Miami Lakes, which started as a master-planned community and has since spread west to include lots of neighborhoods of more conventional tract housing, and the corresponding parks, schools, and roads. Their house is in the original portion of the town.

The "town center"* of ML has been completely built out over some years (I don't know how many), so in theory it is an excellent place to complete your daily routine by walking. Which we tend to smugly tell people should be desirable, but also does correlate with higher property values. There's two banks, a grocery store, police station, two churches, several restaurants, medical offices and a pharmacy, a multiplex, and a few more tiny businesses I'm forgetting right in the middle, all within less than a quarter-mile of each other. Hundreds of detached houses and apartments are arranged in concentric circles around that, and there is unusually good sidewalk coverage. And the weather was pretty damn nice the whole time I was there.

Yet no one really walks. Why?

Miami Lakes has the same issue that most master-planned developments like this suffer from: they are of course much too small to contain the job sites and schools that their residents will use, and it's not as though all of his parents' extended family and social circles lives in the same bubble. Being connected to the rest of the area is a necessity. Thus it isn't impractical to live there without a car, and when the rest of the city around you is car-dependent, so are you.

My impression from several visits there? The folks that live there like the proximity of all the stuff, but that it comes with parking and walking just doesn't occur as an option. All in all they still drive very short distances compared to neighbors in the newer neighborhoods, so the master planning wasn't for naught.

* I hate that term. And my company was founded by a guy that built them for a living.

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